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A mobile solution for keeping track of bill payment deadlines
My voyage in moving a concept forward from an idea to an application.
Bryan Dosono June 8, 2011 INFO 360
Table of contents
• Overview • The team selection process • Brainstorming a question • Ideation, ideation, ideation
• Narrowing the focus
• Testing prototypes with users • Creating a design specification • Filming a video • The final product • Reflection
The overarching theme of the project for INFO 360: “UserCentered Design” this quarter was about money: how people could make sense of it and how it is spent. This process book narrates the visual story, using artifacts from my group’s design process, that explains the origins of our final design and my role in its creation.
The team selection process
• Unlike other classes I had taken at the Information School, this was the first one where I was not allowed to select students to be in my team. This powerlessness threw me off during the first week of the course. Teams were instead chosen by the instructors who asked students to fill out a survey. Based on that survey, students would be matched accordingly so that there would be somewhat of an even skillset of technical and non-as-technical people in each group. I was selected to become a member of Team 9 alongside Zach and Kathryn. We all had a varied skillset in terms of expertise, and we all got along with each other from the start. This was a first design course for all of us, and we were eager to find out what we were going to learn within the coming weeks.
Bryan Dosono (Me)
• Project manager • Coordinate meetings
• Developer • Focuses on details
• Designer • Monitors team moral
Brainstorming a question
• One of the first tasks we were assigned to do was come up with three design questions on the topic of understanding money. I instantly thought of dividing society into three different categories: college students, working professionals, and retired adults. For the sake of scope and simplicity, I decided to exclude children, homeless vagrants, and other social groups that lack power in the fiscal hemisphere. It became obvious to then focus more on the study of college students and money because I can mostly relate to that social group. I was not really interested in investing my own time to design something that would only impact older generations of people. I then shared my thought process with my team mates, who were also interested in focusing on people our own age. We then wanted to investigate how college students interacted with money. One thing that each member in my group had in common was that we all at one point or another had difficulty paying bills on time. After several rounds of discussion, we decided that we wanted to explore this topic of bill deadline tracking further. Then, the question was born: how can undergraduate college students keep track of their bill payments and deadlines? My team sought to find a solution.
Artifact: written research question
Ideation, ideation, ideation
• The next couple of weeks of the course focused on the concept of ideation. I’ve always attributed myself to be traditionally noncreative. However, the lectures and class activities have guided me to “dream the impossible” and to not shoot down farfetched ideas when shooting for quantity in solutions. For example, in one of the class labs, groups used sticky notes to write down as many ideas that pop into their heads and categorize them under their commonalities. We then took this exercise a step further and were assigned to come up with 40 sketches (independent of each other) for potentials solutions to our design problem. Letting go of my old, restrictive mentality of listing only the practical solutions really allowed me to come up with a variety of creative answers. It was then that I learned about the importance of being open-minded when it came to problem solving.
Artifact: stacks of sticky note ideas
Artifact: 40 sketched design solutions
Narrowing the focus
• After each person in my team came up with 40 unique solutions to our design problem, we combined everything together and had a difficult time trying to pick just one. The following class lab for that week emphasized the importance of designing under constraints. We were instructed to create our own versions of Husky cards, and from that experiment, we learned how to pinpoint which elements are essential to a design. From that activity, I was able to discover what parts of a solution were important to critically address the severity of the design problem. With this new understanding in mind, I evaluated all of the 120+ combined solutions, and as project manager, selected the top three. From there, my team as a whole assessed the feasibility of the proposed solution and its effectiveness. Ultimately, we decided that developing a mobile application would be the best way to remind undergraduate students to pay their bills on time. Smart phones are becoming ever increasingly more ubiquitous in society, and such devices have the capability to notify users in a variety of methods (such as text and email).
Husky card: first iteration
Husky card: second iteration
Husky card: third iteration
120+ unique design solutions
Testing prototypes with users
• From here on out, the team started to delegate certain roles to certain people. As the project manager, I was in charge of making sure that application development was running smoothly. I delegated tasks and set milestone objectives for the team to meet on a regular basis so that weekly deliverables would be submitted on time. The team divided the user testing work equally. Serving as an effective oversight resource, I made sure to follow up on team members so that each one found and tested two separate and random undergraduate students. I also wrote the entire user protocol testing script that was read aloud to users that tested high-fidelity prototypes of the application. I recorded the testers’ feedback and passed along the information to the rest of my team mates. The team as a whole then improved the prototype by assessing the testers’ suggestions and observations.
Creating a design specification
• The design specification is a clear description of the design problem, project scope, details about every design, decision made within the project scope, rationale for and decision for every design, decision that may affect our solution’s effectiveness. I had various roles within the creation of the design specification. Specificallly, I wrote and fine tuned both the problem statement and the project scope. I also added and filled an extra section within the specification about the impact and significance of the MoneyManager application. Moreover, I was in charge with designing the overall look, feel, and theme of the specification (this includes the cover page, heading styles, font preferences, etc.). This turned out to be a very time consuming job because I constantly had to fix positional and stylistic errors every time my team mates added new content to the document.
Screen shots of specification
Filming a video
• After our specification went through several group revisions, we filmed a complementary video. This video was assigned to be a multimedia story, persuading a stakeholder of our team’s design that they should invest time, money, and attention to make our design a reality. Filming our video was very straightforward. All it took was a gung-ho group effort to meet for one afternoon and capture footage in one fell swoop. My role in this process was not only to coordinate the logistics of meeting, but to also film the video with my own two hands operating the camera. Once my group obtained the video footage it needed, I arranged for us to meet up at a computer lab several days later to grab final “iPhone Simulator” video material to insert into our film for extra polish. We worked extremely well on this part of the project, with everyone performing efficiency. Like a puzzle, everything fit together smoothly.
Arrange time and meeting location
Thank and praise everyone involved for their efforts in making the project a success
Delegate roles for each person involved
Video editing process from a project manager’s perspective
Follow through with supervising the video editing process and oversee any relevant decision making Film the required footage and double check to make sure all necessary shots are taken
Verify which people will bring which materials to the video shoot
The final product
• My team’s final product is the result of all the choices we made as a group to address the design problem. After the end of ten weeks, we have created a high-fidelity prototype MoneyManager application for the iPhone that improves students’ grasp on their personal finances by reminding them to pay their bills on time. The application is programmed with auto-pay features for students to take care of their bills on the go. Students can also very their synced account balances, as well as view recent transactions made. MoneyManager is an important mobile application because it can help students avoid paying late penalties. Moreover, the use of the application can actually help students establish great bill payment habits. Credit scores of college students can actually be improved as a result of using the application to paying bills on time.
In retrospect, I was a bit hesitant about the entire design process. I started out with a topic that I wasn’t even comfortable discussing (money) and was forced into working with an entirely new team of students that I didn’t even select. However, this project—and the INFO 360 course in general—taught me what it meant to be a designer. I have learned that a strong designer is not afraid to think unconventionally to solve a problem. I have learned that a strong designer takes risks and is not afraid of failure. I have learned that a strong designer can emotionally distance himself from his own ideas, and can effectively articulate rationale for his decisions between a wide array of audiences. Most importantly, I have learned that a strong designer knows the difference between getting the design right, and getting the right design. I personally found the entire process of designing MoneyManager to be a humbling and rewarding one. I never would have thought that I could accomplish so much in just one quarter. I now have a new found respect and appreciation for anyone in the design industry. Although my team has yet to discuss the future of MoneyManager outside a classroom context, I can truly see it becoming an application available for download in the Apple App Store one day.